The stereotypical image of a computer programmer—a geek with thick glasses and a pocket-protector hunched over a CRT monitor—has been replaced by casually-dressed, modern men and women fixing bugs and updating websites from the corner booth in their favorite coffee shop.
Today, anyone can learn to code—from small business owners building their first website to savvy bloggers ready to tackle WordPress tutorials to administrators who oversee mega corporations. Coding not only simplifies daily tasks, it teaches you abstract thinking and problem-solving, and the only things you need are a computer and an Internet connection.
Understanding Coding Basics
Computers only understand binary instructions written in a series of 0’s and 1’s arranged in groups of eight digits, called bytes, so writing programs in binary language is labor intensive. Fortunately, existing languages help translate lines of code into binary expressions, eliminating hours of stress and making it possible for almost everyone to create or modify virtual content.
Coding is language that allows computers to understand what you want them to do. There are thousands of programming languages out there in the world that allow developers to create games, apps, software programs, and special effects. Code is what makes our computer programs function, from basic word processing, to building or running a website, to playing video games, to navigating airplanes. The software required to do all this is simply lines of code that are written by human beings.
What To Learn and Where
Check out the following links for resources to get you headed in the right directions:
- Develop commercial apps with CakePHP tools, including a user-friendly guide for self-developers and security features that enable form tampering and SQL injection protection.
- Master Cascading Style Sheets with free online courses from Code Academy. CSS is everywhere these days and learning how to crack the code will allow you to modify colors, shape borders, tweak fonts, and arrange page layouts like a professional web designer.
Jobs for Coders in Today’s Marketplace
Professional coders working in IT jobs are handsomely rewarded for their skills, with the median salary being $70,000. Having basic coding skills can improve how you do business in many ways:
- Business owners who code have opportunities to build a website that improves customer experiences by modifying page elements.
- Customer service managers who understand basic coding can inform IT teams about designing programs to expedite response times.
- Health care technology that enables rapid collaboration and streamlined processes improves diagnosis and treatment.
While programmers, systems analysts, information management specialists and other highly-trained workers are a hot commodity right now, people who know how to code can find ample non-IT job opportunities, too. What does that look like in the real world? Here are some examples:
- A person with a degree in Environmental Studies and a passion for shaping energy policies may choose to learn coding to participate in application and software development for private and government agencies.
- If your job revolves around helping others, you can combine coding skills with formal education to create an app like Nudge that monitors people at risk for depression related mood-swings.
- If you are in law enforcement, coding skills can help you develop technical outreach education programs or emergency alert systems that improve safety and security.
While not everyone will embrace coding, technology affects all of us, so having a basic and practical understanding of how to code is becoming an essential digital literacy. Whether you want to personalize your smartphone alert settings or take your business website to a new level, consider learning to code.