Steve Jobs famously claimed that everyone should learn how to write code because learning how to code teaches you how to think. Coding is a way to solve real-world problems with existing technology– and it’s a must-have skill for the 21st century.

Curious about how to get into coding? In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about coding from what it is from coding basics to jobs that use coding. 

What Is Coding?

Coding is the process of giving computers instructions for what actions to take and how to take them. These sets of written instructions, which can be in a variety of programming languages, are called code. 

Not all coders do the same work. Here are several job functions that use coding in different ways to support websites and applications at different stages of product development.

Is Coding Easy to Learn? 

You might be thinking, can I code if I’m bad at math? Coding takes patience and dedication, but you don’t need to be a math or computer wiz to pick it up. Even children as young as six or seven can learn basic coding. 

Creativity, logical thinking, persistence, and attention to detail are traits that are useful for coding. People who enjoy puzzles, riddles, or crosswords and can quickly see patterns and solutions where others do not may excel at coding.

You may think that you need an advanced degree to code; however, that’s not true. Coding skills can be picked up in a matter of weeks through a well-designed curriculum or even self teaching!

“Coding is awesome because it allows you to build some amazing things as long as you have a working computer and the internet. No need to go invest in expensive equipment,” says Shahzad Khan, lead software engineering instructor at General Assembly. 

Ways To Make Money Coding

It’s hard to understate how much coding and software are changing the world we live in. We are entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution where technology will dominate every domain. Every industry is becoming a tech industry. 

Currently, people are using coding for everything from detecting diseases to exploring outer space. This is just the beginning. Coding is completely going to revolutionize every industry and give birth to new ones.

That also means that coding is a great skill to learn to future-proof your skill set. Jobs that use coding include web developer, software engineer, data scientist, cybersecurity analyst, and machine learning engineer. 

You can make money coding by building up your skills enough to land a high-paying programming job. You can also work as a contractor or freelancer to build websites or apps on the side. According to CareerKarma, being self-employed is as popular as starting a job at a company like Microsoft or JP Morgan Chase after a coding bootcamp.

If you have an entrepreneurial itch, you can also start an agency to provide web or software development services for companies. 

What’s It Like To Work in Coding? 

Most programmers say that building websites, apps, or software is highly satisfying, but working as a programmer may not match the preconception you have in your head.

For one, writing coding isn’t a solitary, head-down endeavor. We can dispel the image of the glassy-eyed, hoodie-wearing loner right here. “There is a common myth that coders work alone,” says Arwa Lokhandwala, a lead instructor at General Assembly. “That’s not true! Coding is a very collaborative role. You have to interact with your team members, designers, product owners, and stakeholders, to name a few.”

EMSI reports that the need for soft skills like communication, teamwork/collaboration, and problem-solving in technical roles are up 22% since 2016. 

While coding jobs are known for their good work/life balance with plenty of remote and hybrid options, they can also be very fast-paced to meet production schedules. Working environments vary between companies and industries, but all coding jobs involve working toward a shared goal to launch and improve products and solve problems.

“Creating something is so satisfying, and coding is the ultimate tool to do that,” explains Lokhandwala. “I love getting my hands dirty trying to learn how to use a particular technology to solve a problem or just creating something for fun.”

How To Get Into Coding Careers: Top Jobs That Use Coding

Coding is used in a surprising number of jobs. Data visualization, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are some of the most exciting spaces for coding professionals right now. These fields are breaking new ground, and often, that’s where many thrill-seeking coders want to be.

The high demand for jobs with well-paying salaries is just one of the attractions for coders. Coding draws on problem-solving skills and attracts the intellectually curious. When computer programming is done right, it never gets boring because you are always learning new things.

Here are five high-growth jobs that require a knowledge of coding. 

1. Web Developer

Do you ever think of ways a website could be improved, or wish you could build your own? A web developer uses tools and code to create websites. Web developers can be back-end, front-end, or full-stack, which manages both. 

Back-end web developers use languages like Python or Ruby and frameworks like Django or Ruby on Rails to build the infrastructure and functionality on the server side of the website. Front-end developers work with UX designers and use languages like HTML, CSS, and Javascript to build the interfaces that users interact with.

2. Software Developer

Every time you use a program like Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop, or TikTok, you’re looking at the work of software developers. A software developer creates and maintains computer programs. They write code, test and analyze software, and collaborate with teams to develop new features using languages like Java, C++, and Python. They are also responsible for troubleshooting issues, debugging code, and improving the software’s performance.

3. Data Scientist

A data analyst collects, cleans, and analyzes data, conducts risk analyses, and prepares forecasts for company leadership. They sometimes use natural language processing to analyze unstructured data or train machine learning models with existing data sets. Common analysis languages for data sets include Python, R, MATLAB, and SQL.

4. Machine Learning Engineer

Machine learning is a fast-evolving branch of artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning engineers bridge the gap between data science and engineering to turn models into working, scalable solutions. 

Some common job responsibilities may include designing and implementing data pipelines, integrating and optimizing machine learning algorithms, and deploying models into production environments. Machine learning engineers are also responsible for monitoring system performance, analyzing results, and iterating on models to improve accuracy and efficiency.

5. Game Developer

Did you know you can get paid to code video games? Video game developers collaborate on new ideas for game design, translate visual concepts into code, and prototype, iterate, and debug gameplay. 

Game developers at smaller companies may touch all parts of a game’s development cycle, while developers at a larger company or third-party developer may specialize in a niche area. Another fast-growing area you can specialize in is building games for the metaverse, augmented reality (AR), or virtual reality (VR).

How Much Do Coders Make? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary is $93,000 for a computer programmer and $109,020 for a software developer in the U.S.

The coder salary you can make varies depending on your specialty, experience, and geographic location. The starting salary for coding bootcamp graduates averages around $69,079 and jumps to $99,229 by their third job. Experienced coders in high-demand fields such as machine learning or virtual reality, for instance, can command as high as $200,000.

Top Industries Hiring Coders

When you think of tech jobs, the first companies that come to mind are probably Amazon, Meta, Google, or Apple. While you can have a fantastic career at any of these companies, opportunities outside of Silicon Valley are plentiful. Here are four industries with a booming need for talented individuals who can code.

Healthcare

Working in healthcare tech is perfect for a coder with a healthcare background or a passion for tackling public health challenges. Telehealth solutions, diagnostic tools, and electronic records are just a few of the healthcare areas that coding can impact. Data shows that hospitals and insurance and healthcare providers can’t keep up with filling the tech talent they need– leaving a gap that passionate newcomers can fill

Banking/Financial Services

Online banking hinges on solid infrastructure to prevent fraud and safeguard customers’ financial information. Financial institutions report that software engineering is critical to their organization’s future, and they put their money where their mouth is. Coding jobs including software engineers and cybersecurity specialists are some of the highest-paid coding jobs you can find. 

Financial services companies also need coders to build apps and tools to help customers manage their personal and business finances.

Government/Defense Contractors

Cybersecurity and infrastructure are also major tech priorities for government agencies, but that’s not all. Programmers working with agencies from defense to militaries build everything from combat systems to interfaces for benefits administration. Coding can make a great second career if you’re transitioning out of the military or public service. 

Defense companies and governmental bodies hiring coders include Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, and the National Security Organization.

Retail

Amazon has always been the company to beat in online retail, and others are vying for market share by developing customer interfaces, payment processing, and logistics systems for ecommerce at scale. As a result, tech job opportunities abound at retail companies. Companies like Walmart, Wayfair, and Lowe’s have large teams supporting app and software development. 

Online grocery ordering has also exploded in recent years, with companies like Albertson’s and HEB investing heavily in tech. Experts predict that online grocery will grow to 13.6% market share by 2027– and they need coders to meet this growing demand.

How To Learn Coding

Whether you want to learn to code as a hobby or side gig or want to follow a software engineering career path, getting started can be overwhelming. 

The good news is that you don’t need an expensive computer science degree to learn to code. There isn’t just one way to learn to code– but there are pros and cons to each approach.

Online Tutorials

Today, there are thousands of ways to learn online for free. Self-led exploration is a popular first foray into coding. You can find tutorials to walk you through coding basics across many different programming languages. You can even find fun challenges like “Build Wordle in 20 mins!”.

YouTube is one vast resource, with channels like TheNewBoston, Learncode.academy, or Treehouse hosting hundreds of hours or tutorials. Websites like freecodecamp.org offer lesson modules for a wide range of programming languages.

These free resources are a fantastic way to get a taste for coding and look for guidance on a particular issue. However, it takes a lot of time and dedication to learn to code this way without any accountability or mentorship. 

The completion rates for free code camp certificates are often low. It can also take much longer to teach yourself to code little by little—and even longer before you can jump to a higher-paying job.

GitHub

GitHub is a code repository– essentially an open-source code library used by 100 million developers. Developers can store and manage versions of their code on GitHub, plus collaborate with others from around the world. 

GitHub is a great tool when you’re ready to start building and playing around with code to see how other developers have done things. While GitHub’s an essential companion for anyone learning to code, you’ll need guidance or mentorship from an instructor or bootcamp to give you programming fundamentals and theory as to why things work the way they do.

Coding Bootcamps

If you’re serious about learning to code for a career, a coding bootcamp is a fast way to get your skills up to speed. Bootcamps immerse students in hands-on technical learning, mentorship and peer collaboration, and a capstone project that’s interview-ready. Bootcamps have both virtual and in-person options and can be full-time or flexible according to your needs. 

Instructor Lokhandwala describes what it’s like to enroll in a coding bootcamp: “Bootcamps are inherently intense because there is a limited time period to train, which has its own advantages. The initial days are challenging, but as you progress with the projects you build, the people you interact with, and the things you learn, you will become confident with interviewing and getting the job. 

What Is The Best Way To Learn Coding? 

Googling “coding classes near me” will produce a mind-numbing amount of results. There are many ways to learn to code, from learning DIY to coding certificate programs to scoring a coveted spot in a computer science doctoral program. But, which is right? 

One huge benefit of a bootcamp is learning from an instructor who is passionate, knowledgeable, and has real-world experience. Instructors incorporate their own love of learning and thrive on sharing this with students, often in a collaborative discussion that covers a wide range of coding topics.

“If you are just starting out with coding, I would highly recommend a GA Immersive because it gives you a community. Talking to other people who are in the same situation as you can help you get motivated,” said Lokhandwala.

Another benefit is the credentials and recognition you receive through a bootcamp. Like most education, there’s no coding bootcamp job guarantee, but the technical skills and career counseling you’ll receive give students a leg up with entry-level coding jobs.

A Course Report study found that the median starting salary of coding bootcamp grads increased by a whopping 56% after graduation—from $44,350 to $69,079. 

These students didn’t need to wait a decade before starting to see their return on investment, with most finding a job within one to six months. You could pay off a house with the extra quarter of a million dollars you’d make in the next ten years. 

Transform Your Future By Learning To Code

Is it actually worth learning to code? Definitely. 

Beyond the salary increase, transforming your career path is about more than just a paycheck. Investing in yourself to learn, achieve, and grow into a career you love is always a smart choice. 

A 2017 study by Burning Glass Technologies found that over 20% of career-track jobs value coding skills, and that coding jobs offer a $20,000 per-year salary premium over non-coding jobs. 

Take Anthony Pegues, for instance. Back in 2017, Anthony knew that he needed a change. He was working as a janitor and an amateur boxer and living at home.

“It was one of those situations where I had to make a change in my life and I made a decision that web development was going to be the next step for me. I looked online for other alternative pathways, and General Assembly offered the greatest opportunity for me. I took that opportunity and never looked back.”

Today, Pegues is a back-end software engineer at Shutterstock. If you enjoy solving problems and building things from scratch, learning to code can launch you into a fulfilling career to last a lifetime.

Inspired to take a deeper dive into the world of coding? Reach out today to start your career change journey.