In this technology-driven economy, employers of all sizes are scrambling to hire people with computer coding and software development skills. And many people who lack those skills are scrambling to learn them, hoping to take advantage of job growth and high salaries in the field. To help meet those needs, a new type of education has been cropping up around the country: coding. Some people are attending full-time coding schools, while others are teaching themselves in their spare time.
With more people exploring this field, GoodCall put together a comprehensive guide on learning to code to change careers. Read on to learn about options for coding education, job prospects for coders and more:
Can Coding Help You Change Careers?
If you’re interested in technology and dissatisfied with your current career path, learning to code could be a great option for you.
Coding schools are growing in popularity at a time when many people are questioning the value of their college degree. Countless graduates spent thousands on their degrees, only to find that the job prospects were not what they expected. And for many professionals, the cost of school is not aligned with what they earn once they graduate. Coding schools give people a second chance to pursue a field where there are high paying jobs – and a lot of them.
For Tiffany Peon, a 29 year-old who completed a coding program at the Flatiron School in New York City two years ago, attending a coding school was born out of her desire to do something beyond the music degree she earned in college. Her job before attending Flatiron was as a project manager at a web development agency. During that time, she found that her favorite part of the day was working with the programmers. “I maintain that it’s the best decision I’ve made in my adult life,” said Peon. “I received an offer for a paid internship six days after the program ended, and at the end of that internship, received a job offer. I’m still at the company I started with, Constant Contact, today. In less than a year, I increased my salary over 40% and my job satisfaction cannot be put into numbers.”
Coding, like many STEM positions, can offer a higher salary and more job opportunities for many people. Technology is one of the fastest-growing industries, and coding in particular is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 27% growth in available web developer positions over the next 8 years – much higher than the average growth rate. And web developers have a median salary of $64,970. Software developer jobs are expected to grow 17% by 2024, with a median salary of $100,690. Computer programming has a median salary of $79,530.
According to a 2014 survey of 432 graduates from 48 schools, graduates of coding schools saw an average 44% increase in income, with an average salary of $75,965. 63% were employed full-time after attending a coding school (compared to 48% before attending), while 75% were employed in a job that used coding skills.
If you’re new to coding, you might not realize just how many coding languages there are. While many are similar, they all require a different base of knowledge and all serve different purposes when it comes to web development and computer programming. The coding languages you specialize in can affect the jobs you qualify for and even the salary you can expect to earn. Here are a few of the major ones:
HTML: HTML is a markup language used to create and format webpages.
CSS: CSS is a style sheet language used to determine how HTML elements should look.
PHP: A server-side interpreted, non-compiled scripting language that is frequently used with HTML. It’s used to create dynamic page content, collect and modify data, encrypt data and more.
SQL: Structured Query Language, or SQL, is a language used to interact with databases, including querying data, retrieving data, adding or deleting data and more.
C++: An object-oriented language used to create software, video games and mobile and desktop apps.
C#: C#, pronounced “C sharp,” was developed to create software applications for Windows and mobile.
Objective-C: An object-oriented programming language based on C that is used to create mobile and desktop apps for Apple operating systems.
ASP.net: ASP.net is an open-source, server-side web application framework used to create dynamic webpages. It is designed to only run on Windows servers.
Java®: The basis of the Android operating system, Java® is used to upload photos, take virtual tours, use interactive maps and more.
Python: A server-side interpreted, open source scripting language. Python is used to build websites and graphic user interfaces, create software and games, build websites and more.
Ruby: Originally created in Japan, Ruby is a blend of several other programming languages that is used to build simulations and web applications.
In addition to the coding schools we’ve referenced, there are a number of other ways to learn to code, from standalone online courses to teaching yourself the old-fashioned way. How do you know which one is best for you? That depends on the amount of time you can commit, how much money you want to spend, and what you want to get out of it.
These highly specialized, super-intensive programs teach students how to code in an average of twelve weeks. Many of them boast job placement rates after graduation of 90% or more.
These schools typically focus on the skills employers are looking for today, and many of the coding schools work with businesses in their communities to develop programs specifically tailored to future employment. “We’re laser-focused on the skills the employer in the local market is looking for,” says Peter Barth, Chief Executive of The Iron Yard, the Greenville, S.C.-based coding school with campuses in 19 cities and London. “These are not management skills they will need in five years. It’s the skills they need from day one to be a productive employee.”
Time and money
Coding schools aren’t free – nor are they cheap. Attending can easily cost $10,000 or more and require students to be very committed. Take a normal day at The Iron Yard, which charges around $12,000 for its twelve-week program. School starts at 8:30 a.m. with lectures running to around 12:00. Then after that, it’s hands-on labs until 5:00 p.m., though it’s very common for students to spend evenings and weekends at the school working on projects, says Barth. The Iron Yard boasts a placement rate of 90% three months after graduation, which Barth says is a result of the training.
Coding schools aren’t necessarily easy to get into, either. Flatiron School in New York City purposely keeps its acceptance rate at 6%, partly because it wants to keep the teacher-to-student ratio low at 12 to one, says Rebekah Rombom, VP of Business Development at Flatiron School. Through November 30, 2014, Flatiron enrolled 349 students, with women accounting for 132 of all past and currently enrolled students. Flatiron says students coming out of the program can expect to earn on average $74,000 annually. Flatiron boasts a placement rate of 99%. “The program is designed so you are a productive software engineer right upon graduation,” says Rombom. And because of that “we have way more applicants than we can handle.”
How to pay for it
Paying for a coding school can be similar to attending a for-profit college or university. Students can take out private loans or apply for scholarships at the schools themselves. At The Iron Yard, for example, two to three students in every class received a diversity scholarship. Flatiron also runs a scholarship program in conjunction with the city of New York for students who don’t have a four-year degree. Companies like Spotify have also sponsored scholarships for underrepresented students, and Flatiron School offers payment plans for paying students, says Rombom.
While coding schools may seem very appealing because it’s only for three months and the starting salary can be high, they aren’t for everyone. “This is a huge commitment like any full-time, high investment education experience,” says Rombom. “It should be the right thing for you to do. We look for candidates who are passionate about software development, encountered the discipline before and love it. To us, that makes a great software developer.”
For people who want to maintain a full-time job while learning to code (and don’t have $10,000-$12,000 to spare), teaching yourself to code using online courses is another option. Sites like Codeacademy, KhanAcademy, Treehouse and Lynda all offer free or affordable coding courses. Schools like Harvard, Yale and MIT also offer free online courses, either through their own websites or through partnerships with sites like edX and Coursera.
Less investment, greater accessibility
These courses are typically less expensive and less time-intensive than attending a coding school, and they allow you to work at your own pace, around your job or other responsibilities. Even better? Virtually anyone can use them, without worrying about acceptance rates or previous experience.
Pros and cons
Online coding courses typically involve instructive videos paired with interactive coding exercises and projects. While you don’t get the immersive experience of a coding school or bootcamp, teaching yourself using online courses is great for people who have competing priorities and can self-motivate to keep up. You will, however, miss out on any employment partnerships or career counseling you might get through a school.
In addition to coding schools and online courses, you can teach yourself to code the old-fashioned way. There are books on every programming language and level of experience – Github has a collection of over 500 free programming books, and there are also tons of free e-books on programming.
Work and play
And learning to code doesn’t have to be all work and no play. You can also supplement your coding education with games. There are many coding tutorials that teach you how to build games yourself – and there are even games that teach you how to be a better coder while you play, like CodinGame and CodeCombat.
Find a mentor and community
And, while most of a coding education takes place online – especially if you’re teaching yourself – it can also help to have an in-person mentor, or just meet up with other coders to talk about their projects. Check Meetup.com to find coding and programming get-togethers near you. You can also ask questions and explore others’ code on sites like StackOverflow.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line? Learning to code isn’t for everyone – it requires a big time commitment, a lot of motivation, and, in some cases, a lot of money. But if you are serious about learning coding as a career change, there are several ways to do it – from full-time coding schools to online courses you can do at home. And if you do, you just might find yourself with more job prospects and a higher salary than before.