Is Coding a Good Career?
Coding and related information technology careers are in high demand in the 21st century, with no end to that demand in sight. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% growth across the IT industry as a whole, and reports that the median salary for coding jobs of $91,250 is far above the national median salary. Additionally, starting salaries for coding jobs remain competitive and well above starting salaries for other industries.
Experienced coders can come to command a wide variety of skill sets and tools, but some of the important things for new coders to know include:
- Knowledge of common coding languages like CSS, Java, or SQL
- An understanding of the basics of various IT areas, like app development, front-end or back-end operations, and database management
- How to solve difficult, intricate, and complex coding problems, often alongside a team
Is Coding a Viable Career Path?
Absolutely; the IT industry will add as many as 667,600 new jobs over the next decade. The skills coders learn will remain in-demand as IT continues to be of critical importance to the modern world. In fact, coding jobs are no longer found solely within the IT industry. According to market research firm Burning Glass, half of all IT jobs come from outside the tech industry, such as healthcare, finance, and manufacturing. That means a more competitive job market, where your skills will be in higher demand and potential employers will be willing to offer better starting packages to bring you in.
Can Coders Work From Home?
Working from home is easy as a coder. Because all your work is digital, there’s rarely any need to be in the same physical location as your client or employer. Increasingly, working from home is becoming the norm for IT professionals, with research firm Terminal reporting that 86% of programmers worked from home in 2021. While some of this boom is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend for work-from-home in IT was already going strong before. Now that most have experienced it, it is likely remote-work coding jobs will only continue to grow.
Does Coding Pay Well?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all ten of the major IT occupations feature salaries well above the national median salary of $41,250. Most are actually at least twice this number. Even one of the occupations with the lowest median salary, Web Developers and Digital Designers, boasts a median pay of $77,200 and only requires a bachelor’s degree.
According to Payscale, an entry-level computer programmer with less than a year of experience can expect a total compensation package of $58,436. The cost of education is no doubt a big barrier for many people, but with coding you can expect to get a return on your educational self-investment pretty quickly as your career grows.
What Kind of Education Do Coders Need?
The type of educational credentials needed to get into coding can vary based on what specific area you’re interested in. However, according to BLS most don’t require anything more than a Bachelor’s degree, unless you intend on being an IT research scientist.
There are three primary paths into coding, each offering varying levels of educational depth.
The traditional path, a four-year degree from an accredited university can be a great asset to your budding career, especially if you don’t already have any kind of degree. College IT degree programs can provide you with in-depth knowledge on precise areas, making this route great if you already have a specialty in mind. You could emerge already specialized for your role, making you an attractive target for companies and clients.
However, a four-year degree can be incredibly expensive, not to mention time-consuming. Don’t worry if that’s not feasible for you, there are some faster and less expensive means of learning the ropes.
2. Coding Bootcamps
Coding bootcamps are fast-paced, intensive programs meant to teach you coding from scratch in a matter of weeks to months. Bootcamps are essentially a speedrun through traditional college courses; you’ll still have instructors, projects, deadlines, and other requirements, as well as networking opportunities. However, bootcamps are designed to be cheaper than college and more flexible, often offering part-time schedules and night classes. Most bootcamps are also virtual, meaning you can attend from anywhere.
Don’t worry about being ignored by companies if you only have bootcamp experience. According to HackerRank’s 2020 Developer Skills Report, 31% of programmers at small companies do not have a bachelor’s degree. While a degree is certainly helpful, it’s not necessary to succeed in the IT industry.
Bootcamps are cheaper than college, however, they are not (usually) free. Tuition can range from somewhere around $10,000 to $20,000 for many, meaning you will need either loans or savings to pay for them. While “free” coding bootcamps do exist, they’re a complicated topic best covered separately.
It’s entirely possible to teach yourself coding, though it is difficult. Teaching yourself the basics of coding means you don’t need to worry about saving money for tuition or taking out a loan, and you can work on your studies whenever you wish.
However, self-teaching requires significant discipline. You must not only hold yourself to practicing everything you learn, but you also have to do the work of identifying the proper teaching materials and figuring out how to check your own work.
Top Coding Jobs
1. Computer Programmer
Computer programmers write and test code; they deal entirely with programming languages and the actual code-writing process itself. This is often an entry-level position. Computer programmers often work closely with more specialized IT professionals, like web developers or system admins. This is a great starting point, especially if you haven’t specialized your skills yet.
Median Salary: $81,190
Educational Requirements: Undergraduate degree, bootcamp, or certifications.
Skills to Know: Knowledge of common coding languages like Java or CSS
2. Web Developer/Digital Designer
This is a broad type of job that includes several subtypes. Web developers create and maintain websites, but usually specialize into certain roles, such as:
- Back-end development: The technical framework on which the site operates. Back-end developers design a site’s foundations and create the systems that keep it operating.
- Front-end development: Front-end developers work on the visitor-facing parts of a site, such as its user interface or checkout process.
- Digital interface design: These designers are hybrid coders and graphical design artists, designing a website’s look through the use of images, web-page layout design, font types, and more.
Median Salary: $77,200
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree often not required, though helpful. With web development, having a good portfolio is key.
3. Full Stack Development
Full stack development is also a web design position, but one that encompasses both front and back end development practices. A full stack developer can design a site in its totality, from its code foundation to the user experience process. Because of their expertise over both aspects of web design, full-stack developers can command higher salaries.
Median Salary: $79,494 (according to Payscale)
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree is helpful, but not necessarily required.
4. Software Application Development
Software application developers create applications designed to accomplish certain tasks, such as a search tool or a program designed to automate emailing. They take a clients’ goals and create a plan for how to solve a problem using an application, then begin development of that application. They also ensure that every distinct piece of an application interconnects with everything else in the proper manner.
They also often test and troubleshoot their apps, and will handle fixing any issues that crop up later.
Median Salary: $110,140
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in information technology, engineering, or mathematics. Strong background in programming required. Bootcamp graduates with a lot of experience may also find success in this job.
Skills to Know: Python, Java, as well as most of the languages and tools used by other IT professionals.
5. Computer Systems Analyst
Systems analysts examine an organization’s systems to see what can be improved, or to solve problems. They are typically brought in to solve some kind of error or issue within a system or application and provide feedback on how to avoid such problems. They might also evaluate an organization’s hardware and software systems. Systems analysts also advise organizations on what is best for their business from an IT standpoint. Systems analysts are part tech expert, part business guru.
Median Salary: $93,730
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, especially with experience in business. An MBA or master’s degree in computer science can be especially helpful.
Skills to Know: Java, C+, SQL. Analysts should keep on top of all new advances in computer science, and are recommended to attend classes on new topics.
6. Database Architects
Database architects design and run databases that store vast amounts of data, such as a database that houses customer information for a corporation. This job involves ensuring a database has the proper hardware foundation to contain the data, creating search functions for navigating the database, ensuring proper security measures are in place to protect data, and updating the database.
Median Salary: $98,860
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree in information technology is especially useful.
Skills to Know: Database programming languages like SQL.
7. Network Administrator
Network administrators create and maintain an organization’s networks, such as a corporate intranet. These networks link an organization’s various parts together, so this job is of incredible importance to many employers and clients. Network admins design the hardware and software behind networks, make repairs, and protect the network’s security.
Median Salary: $84,810
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree. Some companies will hire candidates with an associate’s degree or post-secondary certificate, however.
Skills to Know: Python, Bash, Powershell
8. Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts assess and eliminate digital threats to an organization, keeping a watch out for anything that might compromise security. They monitor for any breaches to systems and create a plan for stopping any attack. They also handle repairing any holes in a system’s security. Security analysts often advise organizations and employees on how to keep safe and appraise their employers of any potential problems.
Median Salary: $103,590
Educational Requirements: Bachelor’s degree. However, some companies will hire based on experience, rather than degree, as experience with cyber-security operations is highly valued.
Skills to Know: Deep knowledge of your organization’s entire structure, strong attention to detail, and a sense of caution are very important. It is critical for security analysts to remain on top of the newest developments in information security. You may need to pursue additional certifications to advance your career in this field.
Coding Is a Top Career Choice
The information age will not leave anytime soon; as long as it’s around coders will be invaluable to organizations. If you pursue it, you can expect strong projected job growth, high starting salaries, and a career of tackling interesting and unique problems.