Is Coding the Right Career Path for You?

Learning to code might not be a silver bullet to slay your job and salary-related woes, but coding is a very useful—and employable—skill to have.

Having trouble finding a good job? Or maybe you were just fired? Well, don’t worry, because there’s an easy, obvious solution: coding!

From wealthy philanthropists to annoying people on Twitter yelling at laid-off journalists, many people seem to be suggesting that coding is the silver bullet to getting a great, well-paying career.

But is that true? Not exactly.


What is coding anyway?

You probably have a basic (ha) idea of what coding is, but just in case, let’s review quickly.

A program is a set of instructions telling a computer or similar device what to do. Programs are written in a programming language, and the process of writing in one of those languages is coding. Some programming languages include Python, Java, and Ruby, but those are just three of many, many examples.

However, even if you aren’t looking to become a software developer, there may still be jobs that require or benefit from coding ability. Most companies above a certain size are going to require someone who has a level of coding skills. That’s one reason why having coding skills can open up a lot of opportunities in the job market.

Coding is a great skill to build!

Not only is coding a great skill to develop, but it’s one that you could theoretically learn and practice for free.

“The appeal of coding as a so-called silver bullet toward good job prospects is that it is a tried-and-true profession, and with the advent of the mobile web and applications, it has become a mainstream profession,” explained Larissa Lowthorp, founder and president of TimeJump Media (@timejumpmedia). “The bar to entry to coding as a profession is easier to access than many, as it does not necessarily require a degree—if you know it, you know it.

“There are many free and low-cost resources and coding boot camps available online. You can learn from books, videos, and by practicing—coding is a mobile career that can be done as part of the corporate infrastructure or as a freelancer. It can migrate between clients of all sizes.

“There are many different types and applications of coding, and there will be crossover to backend programming development. Larger companies such as Amazon, IBM, and Google have recently removed the requirement for a degree for their programmers and coders, making the profession more accessible to many.”

Learning to code is not a silver bullet.

Nurturing coding ability is never going to be a bad idea. But you shouldn’t get your expectations up too high. Maybe you should think about it less as a silver bullet, and more like a bronze or lead bullet—which is what bullets have been traditionally made from, after all.

Or even better, consider it just one tool in your employment arsenal that might not be a bullet at all!

“Programming is no silver bullet to your career,” cautioned Gloria Metrick, owner of GeoMetrick Enterprises. “If a platform or tool is ‘hot’ then everyone wants to get into it. What got you a job, initially, becomes overcrowded and commoditized, at some point. Then, the smart person would think that they should learn the next ‘hot’ thing.

“Unfortunately, it’s not easy to convince people who want your current skill set to give you an opportunity on something new. Partly, they want to keep you working with what you already have experience with.

“The other issue is that others are already getting experience in the new area. In addition, they will probably be younger and want less money than you do because, as you realize, you have experience in programming, overall, that could be applied. But it doesn’t always translate that easily.

“In addition to all of this, programmers age more quickly than some other professions. In programming, while there are many experienced programmers with some grey hairs, they’re not always as welcome on projects.

“That’s especially true considering those of us who write code are generally seen as commodities, even when we have special skills and experience. With that, many companies don’t see the purpose of hiring anyone but the youngest and cheapest widgets, er, I mean, people.”

Employers know that basic (ha) coding ability isn’t nearly as rare as it used to be. Which means that many of them, including one we talked to, are going to look for additional factors when it comes to hiring.

“While skilled developers are in high demand these days, having basic ‘coding’ skills is neither a silver bullet nor a guarantee of employment,” explained Garry Brownrigg, CEO and founder of Quicksilk (@QuickSilk). When evaluating candidates, we consider their problem-solving capabilities as well as their ability to step into the shoes of our clients, not just their coding skills.

“We hire candidates that embrace low code and AI software development that negates the need for users to have any development skills whatsoever—which requires that every member of our development team is constantly learning new technologies and standards.”

Is it right for you?

OK, now that your expectations are in a reasonable place, it’s time to find out if coding is right for you!

“Coding is worth pursuing for people that love logic problems, that are creative and love experimenting, and are self-motivated when it comes to creating things from scratch,” offered Joe Bailey, operations manager at My Trading Skills (@MyTradingSkills).

“If you hate sitting for long hours and want normal working hours, or if you can’t motivate yourself, then coding might not be the best skill for you to pursue. You’ll just be punishing yourself unnecessarily.”

Want some more examples of personality traits that might be conducive to coding? Here you go!

“Coding requires great attention to detail: a single misplaced semicolon can prevent an entire application from running,” warned Sean Sessel, founder and director of The Oculus Institute.

“Another aspect of coding is that it will bring more pleasure to task-focused introverts than people-focused extroverts. If you require social engagement to recharge your energy, then long hours in front of a computer are not for you.

“Finally, coding requires a mathematical mind. If you’re a detail-focused introvert yet numbers and systems and quantitative thinking aren’t your forte, you’ll be better off learning marketing copywriting.

“All this said, if you are a detailed-focused, introverted, mathematical thinker who is willing to put in the effort to master multiple languages as well as connect them to each other and the business context, coding can definitely be a road to riches and freedom.

“At that level, it pays extremely well (easily $100/hr to $200/hr, and sometimes higher), and it’s a skill that’s very well suited to freelancing so that you can work from anywhere in the world, when you want, how you want.”

So you want to learn to code. How?

Have you reached this point of the article and decided that you’d like to take a swing at this coding thing? Well, as was mentioned earlier, it can be quite easy and cheap to get started.

“Perhaps the best part is that coding doesn’t require a highly expensive, multiyear degree to get started,” advised Sessel. “You can learn a lot for free at CodeAcademy.com and on YouTube videos, as well as taking structured courses for very little on Udemy or other online course repositories.

“The best path is to build skills using these free or low-cost options and then start actually doing freelance work for people, which will expose you to a wide variety of different situations and thus give you the ability to build your skill repertoire quickly. Coding is something that is best learned by doing, and you can even start making money as you build the skill set!”

If you are planning to attend a traditional university, you can work coding into your education even if you’re not working on a major focused around programming or development.

“Combine programming with some other specialty,” suggested Metrick. “There are many degree programs for combinations such as laboratory informatics or bioinformatics, where you’re combining two areas. In these examples, science and programming. As with anything else, doing this is no guarantee toward getting a job but it can help.

“Look for opportunities to grow. If you get a chance to learn something else, such as project management, business analysis or other skills that work along with programming, give them a try. Then, if you entirely get pushed out of programming jobs you at least have some other experience to apply to other types of jobs.”

We hope this article has given you a greater understanding of the opportunities coding may or may not offer to you. Now please make us a cake robot. To learn more about increasing your future earning potential, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

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Contributors

Joe Bailey is the Operations Manager at My Trading Skills (@MyTradingSkills), a financial trading courses provider. His experience includes web development, UX and conversion rate optimization for both B2B and B2C.
In 1984, Quicksilk’s (@QuickSilk) founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Garry Brownrigg, uncovered a medical disorder that left him with the inability to speak, sidelining him from his banking career, and forcing him to earn a living by communicating through e-mail. Ever the optimist, Garry turned his adversity into opportunity and taught himself programming whilst completing his Master’s degree, online, through the IPT program at Boise State University. Currently, Garry leads QuickSilk with conviction alongside his team of veteran industry execs, each having multiple start-up successes and winning numerous awards.
Larissa Lowthorp is the founder and President of TimeJump Media (@timejumpmedia) and production agency headquartered in St. Paul Minnesota with satellite offices in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Ontario. She is a technology entrepreneur, filmmaker, and digital nomad who has been coding since she was a teenager. Her prior experience includes stints in advertising and marketing, publishing, web development and programming, IT consulting, user experience engineering, and more. Larissa’s expertise has helped revolutionize the digital experiences for numerous notable brands which include Fortune 100, Fortune 50, and Fortune 25 companies. In 2015, Larissa made the decision to trade the corporate world to pursue her passion for film and other interests. Soon thereafter, she donated 99 percent of her belongings and hit the road with her beagle, her laptop, and two suitcases of essentials.
Gloria Metrick has been programming most of her adult life. She began her career writing business systems, manufacturing software, and mathematical one-off software for scientists. After that, she became an expert in sample management software for research and for product testing laboratories. Along the way, she’s supplemented her programming work by also doing project management and business analysis, as well as doing the usual testing and documentation that programmers are often required to do. Combining skills this way not only provided more opportunities but it also has helped Gloria better understand how to work with people in the many different roles on the projects she’s been a part of. In addition, she has written articles for her industry’s periodicals and spoken at industry conferences. She wants to tell other programmers that taking these opportunities to improve our communication skills does also help us better communicate with our managers and users about the programming we do. It’s also useful for those programmers who would like to become a team lead or a similar role.
Sean Sessel is a voracious learner with a fervent belief in the ability of the individual to better himself or herself. After an epiphany that he derived intrinsic enjoyment from continual learning and the sharing of knowledge with others, he decided to make a career of it and started The Oculus Institute. Through the Awaken program (which shows people how to escape burnout jobs and craft careers that truly inspire them), Mr. Sessel has found a means of enduring impact. Thousands have been inspired by the introductory presentation, and Mr. Sessel has personally worked with hundreds of different people on solving the problems discussed therein. Right now, his primary goal is to expand Awaken and then build out other programs to solve other major life problems for a greater number of people.